01: Setting the tone of the class
Even before the teacher thinks of language inputs, she ensures that children are comfortable and have got used to the new situation. She prepares them to understand and follow school routines. She speaks to them at length (of course in the language that the majority of her students understand) about how she expects them to participate in her class. These are essential on two counts.
In short, the tone for the entire year is set and she tries to be consistent and predictable so as to cause the least confusion to her students.
This is possible even in pre-school. Planning the first few classes carefully and soliciting children’s cooperation is crucial. This is when she decides how free or restrictive her class is (You may want to read through the extracts and discussions on Open Classroom).
Children need to take on the responsibility of learning as early as possible. For this, we need to critically look at our assessment and evaluation procedures. Getting children to perform for marks or grades at the cost of initiative and industry is detrimental to any learning. Children at this level are already used to getting rewards for good behaviour at home. Now is the time to break the dependence, if any, on such reward systems.
Children do not like to conform to adult wishes all the time. At such times, the adult’s behaviour must not result in children feeling guilty or rebellious. Both of these traits bring a rift between the child and adult resulting in a breach of trust. No learning can happen if the learner does not trust the teacher. Retaining children’s individuality and initiative, and at the same time ensuring that learning is happening is one of the finer skills a teacher develops gradually.
Few resources are needed for setting the tone of the class. The teacher does a lot of talking and eliciting students’ responses. She presents the entire year’s plan to the children. In the first year, we expect children to achieve level 2. It is well known that children perform better if they know well in advance what they are supposed to do. The teacher can also use slide-shows or audio recordings as aids. Such young children are not expected to remember the whole plan. They have to be repeatedly reminded of the goals they need to focus on. Again a tricky situation – the balance between motivating and causing stress/boredom has to be discovered.